Trade Unions at the European Development Days 2017

The European Development Days (EDDs) is a yearly event organised by the European Commission that brings together actors from across the development community. The 2017 edition (EDD17) took place in Brussels on 7-8 June.

Trade unions kicked off their participation with Joan Lanfranco’s (ITUC/TUDCN) participation in a panel entitled ‘From paper to practice: how is Europe measuring up?’ Organised by the CSO Partnership for Effective Development (CPDE), the panel also featured Tetet Lauron (Asia Pacific Research Network, CPDE Co-Chair), Rosário Bento Pais (EU Commission) Antonio Tujan Jr (IBON International) and was moderated by Justin Kilcullen (CPDE Europe). The session began with a short recapitulative of the Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). Mr. Lanfranco highlighted the positive aspects and remaining concerns of the HLM2 outcome document as outlined by the Trade Union statement on the Nairobi Outcome Document.

The subsequent part focussed on the new EU Consensus on Development, which was officially signed at EDD17 later that day. While the prominent role given to the decent work was highlighted as a positive, civil society concerns persist. Evidence (including TUDCN research) indicates that channelling ODA to the private sector fails to fulfil key principles of development effectiveness, still the Consensus gives further prominence to the role attributed to the private sector. Importantly, the Consensus fails to provide clear criteria by which to assess private sector interventions in development and to hold them accountable for their negative social, environmental, and economic impacts, or even provide measures to enforce transparency. Mr. Lanfranco also highlighted that the Consensus leaves the door for the use of ODA to solve the EU’s own economic challenges rather than for the eradication of poverty in developing countries.

EDD17 featured a large number of talks on a wide variety of topics as well as a stands at which different development actors presented their work. The EU Policy Forum on Development, a multistakeholder initiative on development where trade unions are very active, notably had a stand for the first time.

One of the central themes of EDD17 was Decent Jobs. It notably featured a session entitled ‘How to create decent jobs in the global supply chains?’. The session moderator, Françoise Millecam (European Commission DG DEVCO), put forward the question of whether jobs created through the development of global value chains are decent and whether they contribute to a sustainable improvement of livelihoods. She illustrated the issue at hand by referring to a recent study on the creation of export zones in the garment sector in Madagascar. While it resulted in a large number of jobs being created, 98% of workers there live in poverty. A recording of the event is available online:

All in all, the EDD17 theme of Decent Jobs was a good opportunity to explore how to address the exploitation and impunity that exist in value chains. Regrettably, the over-representation of the private sector in speaking positions was not balanced by that of trade union representation. This in spite of the EU committing to work in partnership with both social partners in the new European Consensus on Development. Trade unions hope the next edition of the EDDs will feature equal representation of all social partners, to ensure a balanced debate.